. 11
( 17)


with the subject in gender--number:
Jyf<fem sg> {gjt[fkf ∼ htibkf gjt[fnm} cfvf<fem sg nom> nelf, xnj,s ghjzcybnm
She {went ∼ decided to go} there herself in order to clarify the situation.

When the implicit subject corresponds to a dative or accusative in the main
clause ([89]) or the dative of a dative-with-in¬nitive construction ([90]), c’v is
dative. It agrees with the implicit subject in gender--number:
Jyf {ghbrfpfkf vyt<\msc sg dat> ∼ evjkzkf vtyz<\msc sg acc> }
[89] gjt[fnm
cfvjve<msc sg dat> .
She {ordered me ∼ beseeched me} to go myself.
[90] Gjxtve ,s nt,t<\msc sg> yt gjt[fnm cfvjve<msc sg dat> ?
Why not go yourself ?

The dative in [89] might be thought to show that c’v agrees in case with the
implicit -- dative! -- subject of the in¬nitive.13 But the dative is not used with
subject-controlled in¬nitives ([88]), and the dative is not always used with in¬ni-
tives whose implicit subject is an accusative object:
[91] Z pfcnfdbk Bdfyf<acc> gjqnb nelf jlyjuj<acc> .
I made Ivan go there alone.

12 [86] from Jakobson 1948/1966:134, [87] Jakobson™s translation (p. 165).
13 Comrie 1974, Babby 1998.
Predicates and arguments 295

Table 5.4 Summary of predicative constructions

adjective adjective adjective noun noun
pv (“short”) nom ins nom ins
√ √ √
— —
copular: present tense √ √ √
± ±
copular: past, future tense √ √

aspectual-modal copular ?
√ √
— —
aspectual co-predicate √ √
— — —
modal co-predicate

The dative is used with in¬nitives dependent on nouns: djpvj;yjcnm gjt[fnm
cfvjve<msc sg dat> ˜the possibility of going alone™. It appears that the “second
dative” of c’v and jl«y is an idiom based on the dative in the free in¬nitive

5.2.10 Summary: case usage in predicatives
The basic types of predicative constructions and the forms they prefer or al-
low are listed in Table 5.4. Each form has its preferred distribution, and each
type of predicative construction has its own properties. Evidently there is a
divide between copular constructions (both the basic copular relation be and
its enrichments such as jcn’nmcz ˜remain™, etc.) and constructions in which
the predicative is a secondary predication, or co-predicate, overlaid on an in-
dependent predication; the latter do not allow the predicative (“short”) form of
Nouns go into the instrumental the moment there is the slightest restriction
on the state -- in time (past or future tense), modality (imperative, subjunctive) --
or any sense that the predicative noun describes in what capacity, qua what,
the predicative relation holds. For this reason, predicative nouns used as co-
predicates always go into the instrumental.
With adjectives, the instrumental is used less than with nouns, and only
when there is a pronounced boundary. Adjectives present an interesting con-
trast between the predicative (short) form and the nominative (long) form. The
layered conditions involved in the contrast between these forms (Table 5.5) re-
late to: the subject; the property itself; the occasions (time-worlds) on which
the property holds; and the function of the predicative in context. In idealized
terms, the predicative (short) form states one contingent, accidental property of
a known individual, among other possible properties. It occurs in copular con-
structions and marginally with aspectual-modal hosts (jcn’nmcz). The (long) nom-
inative presents the subject as an entity that embodies a necessary property -- an
essence -- unconditionally.
296 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Table 5.5 Predicative (short) form vs. nominative (long) form

predicative (“short”) form nominative (“long”) form

subject entity de¬ned individual token of type or de¬ned
property manifested by degrees, opposed to other manifested in binary
possible properties or values of the (either-or) fashion
time-worlds accidental property, which is potentially necessary property, which
different depending on circumstances holds at any time, in any
speaker property observable by any speaker judgment of current speaker
context property interacts with (con¬‚icts with, no attention to interaction
causes, is caused by, exists despite) with other properties
other states or events
register mark of written register, less frequent mark of colloquial register
in speech

5.3 Quantifying predicates and genitive subjects

5.3.1 Basics
Russian has various constructions that involve quanti¬cation -- arguments can be
quanti¬ed and predicates quantify arguments. Quantifying predicates are those
that measure quantity against an implicit standard: they report some as opposed
to none, or none as opposed to some, or quite a bit relative to what was expected.
With certain predicates, arguments that correspond to nominative subjects of
intransitive verbs can appear in the genitive.

5.3.2 Clausal quantifiers and subject quantifying genitive
It will be useful to place genitive subjects in the broader context of quantify-
ing expressions and quantifying predicates. Explicit quanti¬ers -- from numerals
such as nh« ˜three™, cj´hjr ˜forty™ through approximates such as vyj ˜much™,
´kmrj ˜how much™, v†ymit ˜less™ -- participate in a network of related con-
structions. The more inde¬nite the quanti¬er, and the more the focus is on
the quanti¬er, the more the verb is likely to use neuter third-person singular
agreement (§5.9).
Quanti¬ers can combine with a noun to make an argument (§4.2). Quanti-
¬er arguments can occur in most argument positions -- as subjects, as indirect
Predicates and arguments 297

objects, as temporal adverbs, and so on. Quanti¬er arguments are especially fre-
quent as the aspectual argument of existential predicates -- be in its existential
sense ([92]) or pre¬xed perfectives reporting the accumulation of a quantity of
something ([93--94]):
[92] <skj vyjuj pyfrjvs[ bp ujhjlcrb[ ;bntktq.
There were many acquaintances from among the inhabitants of the city.
[93] Gjyft[fkj vyjuj ;ehyfkbcnjd, j;blfz j,sxys[ jnrhjdtybq.
There arrived many journalists, anticipating the usual revelations.
[94] Yf nhtnmtv rehct yf,hfkjcm dctuj xtnsht cneltynf.
There gathered only four students for the third year.

The quanti¬er and noun can be separated on opposite sides of the verb, in either
[95] Vjyf[jd jcnfkjcm dctuj gznthj.
Of monks there remained only a group of ¬ve.
[96] Vyjuj e yfc ,skj xthys[ lytq.
Many were our rainy days.
[97] Cneltynjd yf nhtnmtv rehct yf,hfkjcm dctuj xtnsht.
There gathered only four students for the third year.

A noun that is split from a paucal numeral must be genitive plural, not singular
(§4.2). Another sign of the partial autonomy of noun and quanti¬er is that the
split quanti¬er can itself contain a generic classi¬er noun:
[98] Lj,hjdjkmwtd yf,hfkjcm 504 xtkjdtrf.
Of volunteers there gathered 504 people.

Quanti¬er arguments formed with comparatives or certain prepositions (dis-
tributive gj, approximate lj ˜up to™, j´rjkj ˜around™, gjl ˜coming up on™) can be
used as subjects ([99]) or objects ([100]), especially with quantifying predicates
[99] D rf;ljt ecf;bdfkjcm gj ldtyflwfnm dphjcks[.
In each coach would sit a dozen adults.
[100] F dctuj 58-z cnfnmz gjue,bkf, cjukfcyj gjlcxtnfv pfgflys[ bcnjhbrjd, ,jktt
ldflwfnb vbkkbjyjd ytdbyys[ k/ltq . . .
And in all Paragraph 58 caused up to 20 million innocent people to perish,
according to the counts of Western historians.
[101] Yf,t;fkj ,jktt ldflwfnb эnb[ cnfheitr.
There gathered more than twenty of those old ladies.

Other kinds of phrases or nouns have been impressed into service as quanti¬ers:

14 Babby 1984, Garde 1989.
298 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[102] Yfhjle yf ujhs njkgbkjcm gjkysv-gjkyj.
People crowded the mountains full up.
[103] Yfhjle {yf,hfkjcm<nt> / yf,hfkfcm<fem> } nmvf-nmveofz.
Of people there gathered legions.

In this construction, a verb can be in the neuter singular, failing to re¬‚ect the
etymological feminine gender of nmv’-nmv©ofz ˜legions™, ghj ´gfcnm ˜abyss™.

5.3.3 Subject quantifying genitive without quantifiers
The extreme form of quantifying constructions is that in which there is no
explicit quanti¬er and the argument corresponding to a subject is expressed in
the genitive. Bare genitives occur with verbs stating accumulation or distribution
of quantities ([104--8]):
[104] Yfgjkpkj dczrjuj k/lf<gen> d ujhjl Fpjd.
There crawled into the city of Azov all manner of people.
[105] Gjyft[fkj ;ehyfkbcnjd<gen> .
There arrived many journalists.
[106] F yfhjle<gen> yf ekbwt dct ghb,sdfkj.
There kept being more and more people on the street.
[107] D gjcktly// ytltk/ cytue<gen> gjlcsgfkj.
Over the past week some snow has sprinkled down.
[108] Tckb , utythfk dbltk, xnj dfc<gen> nen yf,bkjcm, rfr ctkmltq d ,jxrt, jy ,s
ybrfr yt hfphtibk nfrjt rfnfymt.
If the general had seen how you had been stuffed like sardines in a barrel, he
would never have allowed the excursion.

Though similar to the construction with an overt quanti¬er, the construction
with a bare genitive subject without a quanti¬er focuses more on the existence
of the quantity beyond expectations. The subject is usually essential in reference
(in [105], ˜there arrived a quantity of that which can be de¬ned as journalists™).
For this reason, the subject does not readily support grammatical operations
requiring an individuated entity, such as an adverbial participle ([109], unlike
[93] above with an overt quanti¬er) or re¬‚exive pronouns ([110]):15
[109] ? Gjyft[fkj ;ehyfkbcnjd, j;blfz<dee> j,sxys[ jnrhjdtybq.
[There arrived many journalists, anticipating the usual revelations.]
[110] ? Ujcntq gjyft[fkj yf cdjb[ vfibyf[.
[There came many guests in their cars.]

A bare genitive subject can be used with existential be to assert a surprising
quantity of a noun, in a folksy construction with a distinctive intonation (IC6 )
that rises sharply on the mass noun and remains high ([111--12]):

15 Polinsky 1994 ([110]).
Predicates and arguments 299

[111] B yfhjle<gen> ,skj, b cvt[e<gen> ,skj!
There were many people, much laughter!
[112] -- Ye ,tks[-nj nfv e yfc djj,ot ytn.
-- Nen ,skj ,tks[<gen> !
-- Well white ones [mushrooms] we didn™t have any of these.
-- Oh, there were white ones all right!
[113] Vj;tn, vyt cdj,jls<gen> jcnfkjcm kbim yf vtczw.
Possibly, for me there remained freedom only for a month.
Thus given quanti¬cation in the context, the subject can be expressed as a bare
genitive. It is important to note, however, that the construction with the bare
genitive has an idiomatic character, and is less frequent than these examples
might suggest. The bare genitive is used much more with certain nouns (notably
yfhj ˜people, folk™) than others. Even with the quantifying predicates illustrated
above, it is more common to use overt quanti¬ers. To indulge in an anecdotal
comparison with Czech: Karel Capek™s R.U.R. at one point comments on the
legions of robots, using a bare genitive with a quantifying verb: jich<gen> pˇibylo
˜so many have come™. Russian translations use an overt quanti¬er: cbks yt,tcyst,
crjkmrj b[! ˜heavens above, how many of them there are!™.
There is a small set of quantifying predicates -- [dfn«nm/[dfn’nm ˜be suf¬cient™,
ljcn’nm/ljcnfd’nm ˜become available to someone™, and non-verbal ljcn’cnjxyj
˜be enough™ -- that regularly take the genitive.16 A dative or e<\gen> can specify
the domain or sphere of in¬‚uence on which quantity is evaluated.
[114] Эnb[ gecnzrjd<gen> vyt [dfnbkj yf dc/ ;bpym.
Of such tri¬‚es I™ve had enough for a lifetime.
[115] “Vjkxbim? -- cghfibdfkb tt ukfpf. -- Vjkxb, vjkxb . . . Gjcvjnhbv, yfcrjkmrj
nt,z<gen> [dfnbn.”
So you™re silent? -- asked her eyes. -- Go ahead, don™t say anything . . . We™ll just see
for how long you™ll endure.
[116] E ytuj yt ,skj ybrjuj, j rjv ,s ljcnfkj ;tkfybz<gen> hfpvsikznm.
He had no one about whom there might come any desire to wonder.
[117] Lkz cjj,hfpbntkmyjuj xbnfntkz dgjkyt ljcnfnjxyj nfrb[ lfyys[<gen> , xnj,s
yfqnb nht,etvsq vfnthbfk.
For a resourceful reader, such facts are completely suf¬cient to allow him to ¬nd
the requisite material.
[118] Jdjotq<gen> ljk;yj [dfnbnm yf dc/ pbve.
The vegetables are supposed to suf¬ce for the whole winter.

The need for a genitive subject can be passed through a modal auxiliary (ljk;yj ´
˜should be™ in [118]). In a pinch, an active participle ([119]) or adverbial participle

16 Ljcn’nm also has a transitive valence, with a nominative agent and accusative patient, as in Vfnm
ljcnfkf ;ehyfk ˜mother got the magazine™, and a re¬‚exive intransitive based on the transitive,
as in cfgjub ljcnfkbcm tve ˜the boots came to him™.
300 A Reference Grammar of Russian

([120]) can be formed, showing that the genitive argument of quantifying predi-
cates is analogous to a nominative subject ([119--20]):
[119] Jy ghjcbn e vtyz nhb rjgtqrb, yt [dfnf/ob[<pcl> yf rhe;re gbdf.
He begs me for three kopecks, not suf¬cing for a mug of beer.
[120] Nfrbt lfyyst, ,elexb<dee> ljcnfnjxysvb lkz ghbyznbz htitybz ghjrehjhjv,
<. . .>
Such facts, being suf¬cient for a prosecutor to make a decision, <. . .>

Thus there is a network of constructions involving quanti¬ers, quantifying
predicates (and existential be), and the genitive case. Quanti¬ers combine with
nouns to make argument phrases used in a variety of constructions. Quanti¬ers
themselves can predicate, and they combine and form interesting constructions.
The genitive case is used for nouns that are in construction with overt quanti-
¬ers. If the predicate itself is suf¬ciently quantifying, the genitive can be used
without there being a quanti¬er constituent. The genitive ful¬lls a role anal-
ogous to that of a nominative subject, though it is less individuated than the
typical subject.

5.3.4 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: basic paradigm
Many predicates situate an aspectual argument in a domain, whether physical
space or the perception of the speaker.17 In principle such predications can be
interpreted in two different ways, as individuating or existential. The difference
in meaning and syntactic properties is especially clear with the predicate be.
(The term is convenient for the pattern, even though no form of ,snm is used
in the present tense.)
The individuating interpretation assumes a well-de¬ned individual, some of
whose properties are known independently. The current predication concerns
another property of that individual, namely location in some domain. The word
order is normally S V Dom.
17 Chvany 1975 drew the sharp distinction between the existential use of be and its predicative
function. Babby 1980 argued that the genitive occurs when the relevant argument is included
in the scope of negation, where scope is de¬ned in terms of functional sentence perspective
(modi¬ed in Babby 2001 to the claim that both subject and object genitives result when the
argument is in the scope of verb-phrase negation). Guiraud-Weber 1984 examines the func-
tional differences between genitive and nominative constructions (Z yt ,sk d Vjcrdt). Robblee
(1991, 1993[a], 1993[b], 1996) posits a hierarchy of predicates from existential (and modal and
quantifying) through individuating intransitives to transitives. I have relied on this latter body of
work here. Paducheva (1992, 1997) establishes the limits of use of the genitive of negation, lay-
ered from regular to occasional to non-existent, as a function of predicate semantics. Ultimately
the “semantic invariant” proposed for the construction with the genitive is: “{ does not exist in
the World/Place,” where the place can be “the perceptual space of the Subject of consciousness.”
Here the exposition emphasizes the difference in structuring of information: the nominative is
a statement of a property of an individual, among alternatives; the genitive is a statement about
the world.
Predicates and arguments 301

± 
,sk 
[121]  
Vfktymrbq ghbyw --- yf vfktymrjq gkfytnt.
 
± 
was 
 
The Little Prince is on the small planet.
 
 
will be

When an individuating predication is negated, nothing happens to the structure
of the clause, and negation is the usual negative particle yt in the present tense:
± 
yt ,sk 
[122]  
Vfktymrbq ghbyw yt yf vfktymrjq gkfytnt.

yt ,eltn 
± 
wasn™t 
 
The Little Prince isn™t on the small planet.

won™t be 

The individuating interpretation is forced if different possible locations are con-
trasted ([123]) or if the predicate is contrasted with another predicate sharing
the same subject ([124]):

[123] Jy ,sk yt d Vjcrdt, f d Gfhb;t.
He was not in Moscow, but in Paris.
[124] Jy yt ,sk d Vjcrdt, f cktlbk pf cj,snbzvb bplfktxt.
He was not in Moscow, but still kept track of events from afar.

Thus, individuating predicates (including be) have ordinary syntactic properties.
In contrast, with the existential interpretation, the predicate establishes a
state of the world, which is the presence or absence of some entity in a domain.
The entity is often understood in essentialist terms, as the token of a type. The
domain is presumed known. If no domain is actually named, it can be the world
in general, or some more speci¬c domain known in context. The word order is
normally Dom V S (though see [127]).
± 
,skb 
[125]  
Yf gkfytnt {--- ∼ tcnm} njkmrj uke,jrjdjlyst ;bntkb<nom> .
 
,elen 
± 
 were 
 
On the planet there are only deep-water inhabitants.
 will be 
 

The present tense of the existential construction has either no overt form of a
verb or, occasionally, the residual particle †cnm (§5.3.12).
302 A Reference Grammar of Russian

When an existential predication is negated, the entity whose presence in the
world is denied is expressed in the genitive.
± 
 yt ,skj<nt pst> 
[126]  
k/ltq<gen> .
Yf gkfytnt ,jkmit ytn
 
 yt ,eltn 
<3sg fut>
± 
 were 
 
On the planet there are no longer any people.
 will be 
 

In the present tense, negation is marked by y†n (colloquial y†ne). When an exis-
tential predication is negated and the subject is expressed in the genitive, the
predicate no longer agrees with any argument, and becomes “impersonal”: it
appears in the neuter singular (past) or third-singular (present, future). The neu-
tral order is Dom V S, but other orders occur: F s k/ltq d yf gkfytnt ,jkmit yt
,eltn ˜As for people, there will no longer be any™.

Some other predicates can also be used in both individuating and existential
senses, for example, jcn’nmcz/jcnfd’nmcz ˜remain™:

[127] Yf gkfytnt jcnfkbcm d ;bds[ njkmrj эrbgf;b<nom> rjcvbxtcrb[ cnfywbq.
On the planet there remained alive only the crews of the space stations.
[128] Yf dctq gkfytnt yt jcnfkjcm yb jlyjuj ;bdjuj xtkjdtrf<gen> .
On the whole planet there did not remain a single person.

A domain expressed by the preposition e<\gen> establishes a sphere of control
or in¬‚uence of an animate entity.
± 
,skb 
[129]  
E vtyz dctulf --- gkfys<nom> yfgjktjyjdcrbt.
 
± 
had 
 
I always have Napoleonic plans.
will have
 
± 
yt ,skj 
[130]  
gkfyjd<gen> .
E vtyz ybrjulf ytn

yt ,eltn
± 
had 
 
I never have any plans.
will have
 

By asserting the existence of an entity in the sphere of in¬‚uence of an animate
being, this construction corresponds to transitive predicates of the type of En-
glish have (on bv†nm, see §5.3.11). The possessive construction can be considered
Predicates and arguments 303

a special case of existential be constructions. It has the same use of case, notably
genitive when the whole situation of possession is negated.
The predicate be can function as a copula -- as a linking verb -- when it is
combined with a predicative noun or adjective (§5.2). A predicative (or copu-
lar) construction is necessarily individuating. Its communicative force lies in
asserting (or denying) that one property as opposed to another holds of a known
entity; it is then a statement about an entity, rather than a statement about the
world as a whole. No matter how one tries, the genitive cannot be used for the
subject argument when a predicative is negated:

[131] Ybrnj<nom> yt ,sk ,tphfpkbxysv r celm,t.
No one was indifferent to fate.
[132] — Ybrjuj<gen> yt ,skj ,tphfpkbxyj r celm,t.
[133] Tot yb jlyf enhfnf<nom> yt ,skf nfr nz;tkf lkz ytuj.
No prior loss was so hard for him.
[134] — Tot yb jlyjq enhfns<gen> yt ,skj nfr nz;tkj lkz ytuj.18
[135] D nfrjv ujhjlbirt ybxnj<nom> (— ybxtuj<gen> ) yt jcnftncz ctrhtnjv.
In such a town nothing remains a secret.
[136] Ybxnj<nom> (— ybxtuj<gen> ) yt {cdznj ∼ dtxyj}.
Nothing is {holy ∼ eternal}

Thus, constructions involving an aspectual argument and a domain expres-
sion can be interpreted as individuating or existential, and there is a signi¬cant
difference in morphosyntax when the predicate is negated. Although the sense
of a predication as existential or individuating is a holistic reading, how likely
the existential reading is -- and how likely the genitive case is under negation --
depends on three considerations: (a) the predicate; (b) the reference of the nom-
inal argument; and (c) the context of the predication.

5.3.5 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: predicates
It was implicit in the discussion above that be is virtually in a class by itself
(perhaps to be joined by modals y’lj, y©;yj that can take an accusative or
genitive even when not negated). Be would normally take the genitive when
negated, even with aspectual arguments whose reference is strongly individu-
ated (pronouns, proper nouns). After be, the quintessential existential, there is
a score or so of predicates that can take the genitive of negation (Table 5.6).19
These fall into recognizable semantic subgroups. All these verbs comment on
existence, but each adds something over and above merely asserting existence.
With perceptuals, existence is determined relative to the ¬eld of perception of

18 Yet Trubetzkoy (1975:268) wrote, Ybxtuj yt ujnjdj ˜There is nothing ready™.
19 List based on Robblee 1991, Paducheva 1997.
304 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Table 5.6 Semantic classes of existential predicates

predicates semantics

pfv†nyj ˜noticeable™, d«lyj ˜visible™, cksiyj perception: possibility of existence of
˜audible™, x©dcndjdfnmcz ˜be felt™, ljyjc«nmcz state in perceptual space
˜carry™, d«ltnmcz ˜be seen™
jrfp’nmcz ˜turn out™, j,yfh©;bnmcz ˜show up™, inception of perception: inception of
gjck†ljdfnm ˜follow™, gjzd«nmcz ˜appear™, existence of state in perceptual space
yfqn«cm ˜be found™ despite expectation of non-state
nh†,jdfnmcz ˜be needed™ modality: existence of situation of
necessity (obligation, possibility)
cn’nm ˜become™, bv†nmcz ˜exist™, ckex«nmcz occasion: inception of existence of state
˜occur™, gjg’cnmcz ˜happen™, ghjbpjqn« ˜occur™, despite possibility of non-state
dcnh†nbnmcz ˜be met with™, djpy«ryenm ˜arise™
cj[hfy«nmcz ˜be preserved™, jcn’nmcz ˜remain™ preservation: continued existence of
state despite possibility of non-state
dsqnb ˜come out™, dshf,jnfnmcz ˜get production: coming into existence of
´ ´
produced™, j,hfpjd’nmcz ˜be formed™, ghbqn« state despite possibility of non-state

an observer. With other verbs, what is added is a sense of change in the status
of existence, from non-existence to existence. This aspectual sense of change is
¬‚avored by the modal expectation that, if it were not for unusual circumstances,
the original situation of non-existence would have continued. As a general rule,
a strong modal sense of expectation to the contrary inhibits the use of the geni-
tive. The modal sense is weak with cn’nm ˜become™ or ghjbpjqn« ˜occur™, stronger
with gjg’cnmcz ˜to come on the scene suddenly, haphazardly, unexpectedly™ or
with the verbs of production, e.g., dshf,jnfnmcz ˜to get produced overcoming
obstacles™. Verbs of preservation (jcn’nmcz ˜remain™, cj[hfy«nmcz ˜get preserved™)
assert continuing existence despite a clear and present danger of non-existence.
Jrfp’nmcz ˜turn out to be™ combines emergence and perception. Thus there is
a set of predicates that deal with existence but, at the same time, they are
weaker assertions of existence than be, because they keep in mind alternative
The predicates of Table 5.6 tend to occur with common nouns that are under-
stood in essentialist terms, as tokens of a class, and when they are negated, can
use the genitive:

[137] Jyf gjbcrfkf, yt jcnfkjcm kb zujl<gen> .
She veri¬ed whether there did not remain berries.
Predicates and arguments 305

[138] Dct[ wtyys[ pdthtq hfcgeufkb, cj,jktq<gen> gjxnb yt jcnfkjcm.
All valuable animals had been frightened off, almost no sables remained.

Individuated arguments (pronouns, proper nouns) are unlikely to be used with
these predicates, and unlikely to appear in the genitive,20 except for the percep-
tuals ([139]) and cn’nm, in an idiomatic sense ([140]):

[139] Dfyb {yt dblyj ∼ ? yt jrfpfkjcm ∼ ? yt jcnfkjcm} yf ekbwt.
Vania {was not to be seen ∼ didn™t turn up ∼ did not remain} on the street.
[140] Dfyb yt cnfkj.
Vania is no more [has died].

With predicates other than those of Table 5.6, an existential reading (and the
genitive of negation) are unusual, although examples, often constructed, are
cited in the linguistic literature. With verbs of position, the genitive is used
with time expressions or with an emphatic operator: yt ghjikj b lde[ xfcjd
˜not even two hours passed™; yf utnnj yt gfkj b ntyb gjljphtybz ˜not a hint
of suspicion fell on the ghetto™; yb jlyjq ,jv,s yt egfkj ˜there did not fall a
single bomb™. With verbs that specify something about the manner of position,
the genitive is labored: yf pf,jhf[ yt dbctkj vfkmxbitr ˜on the fence there did
not hang any lads™; vt;le ,htdyfvb yt crbnfkjcm ghecfrjd ˜among the logs skit-
tered no roaches™ (Gogol). With p h e no m e no l o g i c a l verbs -- verbs reporting
phenomena that can be perceived -- the genitive is conceivable in an exercise of
modifying lines of poetry: cdtxb yf cnjkt yt ujhtkj ˜there did not burn a candle
on the table™; yt ,tkttn gfhecjd yf ujhbpjynt ˜there do not show white any sails
on the horizon™.21
In practice the genitive with negated positional or phenomenological verbs
is very infrequent. In one count only four examples were found among 198
tokens of negated verbs of position and motion, and no examples of genitive
with negated phenomenological verbs (130 tokens) or negated activity verbs. By
way of contrast, for the verbs listed in Table 5.6, the percentage of genitive was
in the vicinity of two-thirds genitive under negation.22
The likelihood of using the genitive, then, depends in part on the semantics
of the predicate. The genitive can be used most freely with verbs that report
existence in a domain, where the fact of existence is the communicative force
of the predicate. It is less likely with verbs that describe the manner of the
activity, since attention to manner presupposes the existence and identity of
the individual.

20 21 22
Paducheva 1997. Paducheva 1997. Robblee 1993[a]:222.
306 A Reference Grammar of Russian

5.3.6 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: reference
In addition to predicate semantics, the naturalness or likelihood of using the
genitive depends on the reference of the argument.
Pronouns, proper nouns, and singular nouns as a rule refer to individu-
ated, animate entities, and discourse is often organized around such entities
rather than generalized states of the world. Statistically, pronouns are less
likely to be put in the genitive even with be. One study documents a hierarchy
of increasing likelihood of using the nominative with negated be as one moves
away from common nouns (only one nominative in 595 tokens, or more than
99% genitive) through third-person pronouns and proper nouns (84% genitive)
to ¬rst- and second-person pronouns (only 59% genitive).23
With common nouns, the use of case correlates with the sense of the nominal
in context. Nouns with individuated reference, such as the sounds of jazz in [141],
appear in the nominative. Nouns with essential reference -- in [142], ˜anything
that would qualify as sounds™ -- are genitive, and the predicate has impersonal
[141] Dljkm nhjnefhjd cnjzkb ytuecnj pfgfhrjdfyyst fdnjvfibys. C/lf yt
ljyjcbkbcm pderb<nom> l;fpf.
Along the sidewalks cars were parked here and there. The sounds of jazz did not
carry here.
[142] Bp gfkfns Vfэcnhj pderjd<gen> yt ljyjcbkjcm.
From the Maestro™s tent no sounds carried.

For a given predicate, the existential reading will be more natural if the noun
is affected by emphatic operators such as yb ˜not even™, b ˜even™, ybrfrj ˜no´q
such™. With a perceptual predicate, the genitive is regular if negation is emphatic
([143]), but the nominative is normal with a bare noun ([144]):
[143] Ybrfrb[ cldbujd<gen> ytpfvtnyj.24
No advances whatsoever are noticeable.
[144] Ytpfvtnys cldbub<nom> .
Advances are not noticeable.

Emphatic operators make a genitive possible with verbs that would nor-
mally not take the genitive. The genitive is unlikely in ? yt ewtktkj yfituj
aeylfvtynf<gen> or ? yt ghjdpexfkj dscnhtkf<gen> , but possible in [145--46]:
[145] Jn yfitq [b,fhs d Yjdjhjccbqcrt yt ewtktkj b aeylfvtynf<gen> .
From our hut in Novorossiisk there did not survive even the foundation.
[146] Yt ghjpdexfkj yb dscnhtkf<gen> .
There did not sound even a single shot.

23 24
Robblee 1996. Paducheva 1997, [143], [144].
Predicates and arguments 307

With emphatic operators, the speaker imagines and ranks possible entities that
might ¬t in the positive predication, but then categorically eliminates all of the

5.3.7 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: ybrjuj, ybxtuj
The negated pronouns ybrjuj ˜no one™ and especially ybxtuj ˜nothing™ can be used
´ ´
with a much broader range of predicates than other argument expressions.25
With moderate existentials such as jcn’nmcz/jcnfd’nmcz, both the nominative
ybrnj and the genitive ybrjuj occur. The genitive ybrjuj reports complete and
´ ´ ´
utter absence of any members of an open class ([147]). In [148], the class is de-
limited, and we entertain the counterfactual possibility that one of this class
might have remained alive.

[147] Dct yfib hfccnhtkzys, ybrjuj yt jcnfkjcm d ;bds[.
All our people were shot, no one has remained alive.
[148] Ybrnj bp yb[ yt jcnfkcz d ;bds[, b gjlhj,yjcntq эnjuj hfpujdjhf z cjj,obnm
yt vjue.
Not one among them remained alive, and details of that conversation I cannot

Ybxtuj occurs widely. It is used regularly with: moderate existential predi-

[149] Jrfpsdftncz, xnj ybxtuj yt ghjbpjikj, rjytw cdtnf yt yfcnegbk.
It turns out that nothing happened, the world did not come to an end.

With re¬‚exive predicates related to transitives:

[150] Ybxtuj ,jkmit yt dszcybkjcm.
Nothing further was clari¬ed.
[151] Gjxnb ybxtuj c ltncndf yt pfgjvybkjcm.
Almost nothing from childhood stayed in memory.
[152] Ybxtuj yt bpvtybncz.
Nothing will change.

With many intransitives ([153--55]) and semi-transitives ([156--57]) that otherwise
would not take a genitive subject:

[153] Ybxtuj yt ,jkbn.
There is nothing hurting.
[154] -- Lf, -- cjukfcbkfcm Cfhhf. -- njkmrj ybxtuj yt uhtvbn b yt dphsdftncz.
-- Yes, -- agreed Sarah. -- It™s just that there is nothing thundering and exploding.

25 Examples and discussion in Guiraud-Weber 1973, 1984:124--33, Robblee 1993[a]:229--30.
308 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[155] Ybxtuj gjxnb yt dsujhtkj.
Almost nothing burned.
[156] Ntv, rnj ifufk gjl rjydjtv, e;t ybxtuj yt euhj;fkj.
Nothing threatened those who were in the convoy any longer.
[157] Ybxtuj yt gjvjuftn.
Nothing helps.

Ybxtuj can even be used with certain transitives, those that express a relation:

[158] Tuj ybxtuj yt {bynthtcetn ∼ elbdkztn}.
There is nothing that {interests ∼ surprises} him.
[159] <. . .> yj vtyz e; ybxtuj yt vjukj bcgeufnm.
<. . .> but now there was nothing that could frighten me.
[160] Ybxtuj yt jcnfyjdbkj ,s, lf;t ltnb.
Nothing would stop [her], not even the children.
[161] Ybxtuj yt cjtlbyzkj yfc.
Nothing united us.

The genitive is not used with more agentive intransitives ([162]) or transitives

[162] Ybxnj<nom> (— ybxtuj<gen> ) c dm/ujq yt cjgthybxfkj.
Nothing engaged in competition with the blizzard.
[163] Ybxnj<nom> (— ybxtuj<gen> ) yt yfheifkj gjrjz.
Nothing disturbed the peace.

Ybxtuj is possible with some non-verbal predicates that are perceptuals or ex-
perientials, predicates that look almost like predicative adjectives:

[164] Gjckt cvthnb vfnthb vyt e; ybxtuj yt cnhfiyj.
After my mother™s death, there is nothing terrifying to me.
[165] J ght,sdfybb Nehutytdf d gfycbjyt gjxnb ybxtuj yt bpdtcnyj.
About Turgenev™s stay in the pension almost nothing is known.
[166] Ybxtuj yt ,skj gjyznyj tve.
Nothing was comprehensible to him.
[167] Yj ybxtuj yt vjukj ,snm byfxt.
Nothing could be otherwise.

Ybxtuj is not used with unambiguous predicatives, as in [131--36] above.

5.3.8 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: predicates
and reference
Usage can be stated as a cline (Table 5.7) ranging from genitive to nominative,
with an area of variation in the middle. Two hierarchies are re¬‚ected: one based
on reference of the aspectual argument (in the order from likely to use genitive
Predicates and arguments 309

Table 5.7 Predicate hierarchy and case under negation

type of emphatic essential individuated
predicate operator reference reference
—N —N —N
| | | G |± N
—N —N —N
| | | G|N
perceptual: d«lyj ˜be visible™ G G G
—N —N
| | | ?G | N
weak existential: jcn’nmcz ˜remain™, G G G N
dsqnb ˜come out™
—G | N
G|N ±G | N ?G | N
intransitive position/motion: cnj„¦nm
˜stand™, ghjqn« ˜go through™
—G | N
±G | N ?G | N ?G | N
phenomenological: rhfcy†nm ˜turn
red™, ujh†nm ˜burn™
—G | N —G | N —G | N
±G | N
semi-transitive: gjvju’nm ˜help™
—G | N —G | N —G | N
±G | N
relational transitive: bynthtcjd’nm
—G | N —G | N —G | N —G | N
affective transitive: yfhei«nm ˜disturb™
—G | N —G | N —G | N —G | N
predicative: ,snm ctrh†njv ˜be a

± = acceptable, not preferred
? = acceptable but restricted
— = (nearly) impossible
shading = context of variation

to avoiding genitive): ybxtuj ≥ ybrjuj ≥ emphatically negated argument ≥ plural
´ ´
≥ singular abstract ≥ singular inanimate count ≥ animate ≥ pronoun, and
another a hierarchy of predicate semantics.

5.3.9 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: context
When a given combination of predicate and argument can in principle use both
constructions -- nominative (and agreement) or genitive (with no agreement) --
the choice is determined by (or imputes) additional semantic nuances or dis-
course considerations. The aspectual and modal quality of the predication is
relevant. Although be itself does not distinguish aspect, be can be used with
different aspectual senses, such as momentary state, inception of a state, or
endurance of a state over time.
The genitive is usual in statements about the world at a punctual time

[168] <hfnf<gen> {enhjv ∼ d nhb xfcf} yt ,skj ljvf.
Brother wasn™t home {in the morning ∼ at three o™clock}.

26 Observation of Itskovich 1974.
310 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[169] <hfn<nom> {gjckt эnjq cgjhs ∼ c ghjikjq dtcys} yt ,sk ljvf.
Brother hasn™t been home {since that quarrel/since last spring}.

In contrast, a durative context ([169]) is a statement about an individual, who is
subject to expectations about his behavior: in [169], the person “did not come
when he should have done so, or when it was natural for him to come.”27 The
nominative is usual. Similarly, the speaker™s presence was expected in [170]:

[170] Z<nom> yt ,sk yf tuj gj[jhjyf[.
I did not attend his funeral.

Thus, in a negated sentence it is possible to use the nominative if the non-
presence of the entity -- a person was not at home, not at the funeral -- is
implicitly contrasted with the positive alternative -- a person should have been
home, might well have been at the funeral.
Modality is relevant with weaker existential verbs.28 In [171], with genitive,
there is no evidence of anything deserving of the name sound.

[171] Pderjd<gen> c ekbws yt ljyjcbkjcm.
Sounds from the street did not carry in.
[172] Pderb<nom> c ekbws yt ljyjcbkbcm crdjpm ldjqyst hfvs.
Sounds from the street did not carry through the doubled frames.

In [172], by adding the restriction crdjpm ldjqyst hfvs, the speaker contrasts two
alternative histories: sound does not carry under these conditions, but might be
expected to otherwise. Example [172] is, then, about this contrast, not a simple
denial of existence (as in [171]). Similarly, in [173], there is no evidence of Masha
at all:

[173] Vfib<gen> yt dblyj.
There is no sign of Masha.
[174] Vfif<nom> yt dblyf.
Masha isn™t visible.

Example [174] communicates a property of Masha: speaking of Masha, the prop-
erty that characterizes her is a lack of visibility at the moment, though she could
otherwise be visible. Masha is then much like the River Don in [175], which can
be discussed despite its lack of visibility:

[175] Cfv Ljy<nom> yt dblty, jy pf gjkjcjq ktcf, ghjnzyeditujcz gj tuj ,thtue.
The Don itself is not visible [from here, under these circumstances, but only
because] it is beyond the strip of forest extending along its banks.

27 28
Paducheva 1992:57. Examples from Guiraud-Weber 1984, Paducheva 1997.
Predicates and arguments 311

Case also relates to the function of the sentence in the discourse. The genitive
is appropriate when the topic is the whole world ([176]):

[176] {B[ ljkuj yt ,skj ∼ ? Jyb ljkuj yt ,skb}, gjnjv cjdctv ,kbprj hfplfkjcm
ytcrjkmrj dscnhtkjd, b Rjkmwtd dthyekcz, ytcz yf gktxf[ jlyjuj bp ,jqwjd.
There was no sign of them for a long time, then right near there rang out several
shots, and Koltsev returned, carrying on his shoulders one of the soldiers.
[177] {? Tuj ljkuj yt ,skj ∼ Jy ljkuj yt ,sk} d Hjccbb, b tcntcndtyyj, yt pyfrjv c
yfitq ltqcndbntkmyjcnm/.
He had not been in Russia for a long time, and naturally is not familiar with our

With the nominative, the world is viewed in terms of the individual. In [177],
the fact that he was absent explains another fact, his lack of knowledge.

5.3.10 Existential predication and the subject genitive of negation: summary
In summary: Certain predicates discuss the presence of an entity in a domain,
which can be physical space or a speaker™s perceptual ¬eld. In principle such
combinations can be interpreted in two different ways: as a statement about an
individual or as a statement about the world and its contents. In the former
case, interest is focused on the individual, who is otherwise known, and on the
properties of that individual. In the latter case, the communicative force of the
sentence is merely to establish or deny the presence of some entity in some
domain, the entity often being understood as an essence. When such predicates
of location are negated, the entity whose existence is negated appears in the
genitive. The choice between an individuating and an existential interpretation
and, therefore, the use of the genitive under negation, depends on (a) the se-
mantics of the predicate; (b) the reference of the entity, whether individuated or
essentialist or emphatically essentialist (yb jlyjuj ybxtuj (c) the modal and as-
´, ´);
pectual sense of the predicate in context -- consideration of alternative realities
undermines the existential reading; (d) the function of the proposition in con-
text, whether the predicate informs merely of the polarity of existence (genitive)
or the location as a property of the individual (nominative).

5.3.11 Bvtnm and existential possessive constructions
The existential construction with a domain expressed by the preposition e<\gen>
is the usual way of asserting or denying possession of concrete nouns.29 Russian
also has a transitive verb bv†nm, used especially in idioms in which the noun is
an abstract noun ([178]):

29 Safarewiczowa 1964, Isaˇenko 1974.
312 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[178] bv†nm {jnyji†ybt ˜relation™ ∼ ecg†[ ˜success™ ∼ pyfx†ybt ˜signi¬cance™ ∼
´;yjcnm ˜opportunity™ ∼ gh’dj ˜right™ ∼ l†kj ˜issue™ ∼ gjyz´nbt ˜idea,
conception™ ∼ dkbz´ybt ˜in¬‚uence™ ∼ cvsck ˜sense™ ∼ v†cnj ˜place™}

The idioms can be expanded by adjectives (bvtnm ,jkmijq ecgt[ ˜have great
success™) or conjoined (bvtnm cxfcnmt b yfckf;ltybt ˜good fortune and pleasure™).
Negated, bv†nm takes the genitive: r djlrt edktxtybz<gen> jy yt bvtk ˜he had
no interest in vodka™.
Even with concrete nouns whose possession would ordinarily be expressed by
e<\gen> , bv†nm can be used if possession is viewed as a property of the subject.
Thus, bv†nm is appropriate if possession is one of a series of properties of the

[179] Jcnfdibcm cnfhjq ltdjq, ntnz Yflz yt bvtkf ghzvs[ yfcktlybrjd b
ytj;blfyyj lkz vjtuj jnwf pfdtofkf cdjb lhfujwtyyjcnb tve.
An old maid, Aunt Nadia did not have any direct descendants and unexpectedly
for him, she left her valuables to my father.

(Usually: E ytt yt ,skj yfcktlybrjd.) Bv†nm de¬nes individuals:

[180] Vyjubt bp yfib[, rnj bvtk d ujhjlt rdfhnbhs, gthtikb yf hf,jne gj,kb;t jn
Many of our friends, whoever had apartments in the city, moved to work closer to

(Usually: E vtyz ,skf rdfhnbhf ˜I had an apartment™.) Bv†nm must be used when
the possessor is the implicit subject of a participle or in¬nitive:

[181] Jy egjvzyek vjtuj ,hfnf -- nfkfynkbdjuj [elj;ybrf, r njve ;t bvt/otuj
nhjb[ vfktymrb[ ltntq.
He mentioned my brother -- a talented artist, who, furthermore, had three small
[182] Jyf cj,bhfkfcm ibnm b xbybnm j,edm yf pfrfp, xnj,s bvtnm cdjq pfhf,jnjr.
She wanted to take orders to sew and repair shoes, in order to have her own

(Usually E ytuj ,skj nhjt ltntq ˜He had three children™; E ytt pfhf,jnjr
rhj[jnysq ˜She has a modest income™.) Thus bv†nm insists that possession is
a property of the subject.
Bv†nm has a related re¬‚exive form bv†nmcz, used as a more explicit and
bureaucratic equivalent of existential be.

[183] Yf Ufdhbkjdjgjkzycrjv exfcnrt {bvtkcz gfhnjhu<nom> ∼ yt bvtkjcm
gfhnjhuf<gen> }
There {was ∼ was not} a party organizer at Gavrilopoliansk.
Predicates and arguments 313

5.3.12 Tcnm and existential possessive constructions
Russian, it is said, has no verb ˜to be™ in the present tense, and it is true that it
does not use a conjugated verb in the present tense of either predicative or exis-
tential sentences.30 Still, †cnm, the etymological third-person singular present of
,snm, is sometimes used in existential and possessive sentences. Écnm is appro-
priate when the import of the utterance is whether or not any token of a type
exists at all. Écnm is omitted when it is already presumed that something from a
general type exists, and the communicative concern is with the existence of one
particular variety of the type. There are recognizable contexts in which usage is
Écnm is normally omitted in the following contexts. When a sentence describes
the body parts of an individual -- hair, nose, legs -- the body parts are assumed
to exist; the sentence differentiates one subtype from others. Such descriptions
lack †cnm:

[184] E Kbls ,jktt rhfcbdjt kbwj, xtv e Njyb.
Lida has a prettier face than Tonya.
[185] E ytuj vjhcrfz gj[jlrf.
He has a seaman™s walk.
[186] E ytuj ctlst djkjcs.
He has gray hair.

Identifying a disease or condition that af¬‚icts the possessor presupposes that
there is some sort of medical or psychological condition to begin with. Écnm is
not used.

[187] Yf cktle/obq ltym dhfx jghtltkbk, xnj e ytt vjkybtyjcyfz cfhrjvf.
The next day the doctor determined that she had acute sarcoma.
[188] D njv, xnj e yb[ hjvfy, z yt cjvytdf/cm.
That they have a romance going on I have no doubts.
[189] D rjvyfnt cnhfiysq iev.
There is a horrible din in the room.

When a noun is modi¬ed by a superlative adjective, the communicative concern
is with selecting the proper individual from a set of entities, namely the indi-
vidual manifesting the greatest degree of the property; the set, such as a set of
rooms ([190]), is presumed to exist:

30 Seliverstova 1973, Isaˇenko 1974, Chvany 1975, Mehlig 1979 (focusing on the known-ness of the
possessed entity), Paillard 1984 (28--123, focusing on cases in which the usage is the opposite
of the usual), Kondrashova 1996. Except for [196], [198], [199] (from conversation), examples here
are taken from So¬a Pregel , Moe detstvo, vol. I (Paris: Novosel e, 1973), a pseudo-naive memoir of
childhood conveniently written in the present tense with many possessive sentences.
314 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[190] E ytt cfvfz kexifz rjvyfnf.
She has the best room.

Quantifying the noun generally means presupposing the existence of some to-
kens of this type of entity, and the communicative concern is with the quantity
(small, large, etc.):
[191] Z [jxe pfgkfnbnm pf ,bktn, e vtyz djctvmltczn gznm rjgttr.
I want to pay for the ticket; I have 85 kopecks.

Mentioning a body part along with the possessor presupposes a scenario in
which different objects might be located in different sub-locations at various
times, hence no †cnm:
[192] D ghfdjq hert e ytuj ,ertn.
In his right hand he has a bouquet.

Descriptions of garments and out¬ts lack †cnm:
[193] Dfkz ghbltn yf rjhjnrjt dhtvz. E ytt rjcn/v gjlcyt;ybrf bp rjcn/vthyjq
vfcnthcrjq, ult im/n fhnbcnfv.
Valia will come for a short time. She™s got a snow¬‚ake costume from the costume
shop where they sew things for performers.

Écnm is not used in all these contexts, in which a token of a type is presupposed
to exist, and the predicate asserts which subtype of entity is possessed.
In contrast, †cnm is used when no tokens of a type are presumed to exist, and
the sentence is concerned with establishing the existence of a token of a type
in some domain as opposed to its possible non-existence. The fact of existence
is presented as if unrestricted in time or condition. Écnm is common when a
geographical location, with its contents, is described:
[194] Yf gkjoflb tcnm cnfhst lthtdmz.
On the square there are old trees.

Écnm is used with adjectives and xnj´-nj; the question is whether any of some
abstract essence is present at all:
[195] F z yf[j;e, xnj d Kblt tcnm xnj-nj pfufljxyjt.
I think that in Lida there is something mysterious.

Écnm is commonly used in negotiations that verify whether something exists at

[196] K: Yf lfxe etp;ftnt ctujlyz? Are you going to your dacha today?
Today or tomorrow, sometime in
F: Ctujlyz bkb pfdnhf c enhf.
the morning.
You have a plot there, yes?
K: E dfc exfcnjr tcnm nfv, lf?
Predicates and arguments 315

We have a plot. Things are growing
F: Tcnm exfcnjr. Hfcntn xnj-nj d ytv.
Vfnm pfybvftncz . . . there. Mother tends it . . .
Do you have tomatoes already?
K: Gjvbljhs e;t tcnm?

or in conditions, when the condition hinges on whether something exists,

[197] E yfc d ubvyfpbb pdjyzn hjlbntkzv, tckb e yb[ tcnm ntktajy. F tckb ytn, . . .
At our school they telephone the parents, if they have a telephone. And if not, . . .
[198] Byjulf . . . lf ytn, byjulf vj;yj b regbnm. Tckb xnj-nj gjl[jlbn, tckb tcnm
Sometimes . . . Well yes, sometimes I do buy something. If there™s something
suitable, if I have any money.

or in contexts in which existence is emphatically asserted:

[199] Y: Ytn, e ytuj ytne vfibys. No, he doesn™t have a car.
B: Y/if crfpfkf, xnj tcnm e yb[ ntgthm Niusha said that they now have a
vfibyf. <f,eirf jnlfkf bv cnfhsq car. Grandma gave them an old
[200] Rfnz regbkf vyt Hj,bypjyf Rhepj. E vtyz tcnm Hj,bypjy, yj z
cltkfkf dbl, xnj yt bvt/ yb vfktqituj gjyznbz j, эnjq ryb;rt.
Katia bought me Robinson Crusoe. I already have Robinson, but I pretended
that I didn™t have the slightest idea about this book.

Écnm is commonly used with b ˜even™, nj ´kmrj ˜only™, dc=-nfrb ˜even so™, to=
˜even more™, l’;t ˜even™, lheuj ˜another™, operators which focus on the positive
polarity of possession:

[201] E ytt tcnm lheujt itkrjdjt gkfnmt, tuj jyf yjcbn gj ce,,jnfv.
She has another silk dress, she wears it on Saturdays.
[202] E ytt tcnm lf;t ytcrjkmrj ,tks[ djhjnybxrjd.
She even has several white collars.
[203] E vtyz nj;t tcnm /vjh.
I also have a sense of humor.

Although there are many contexts in which the use of †cnm is predictable, there
are others in which †cnm may or may not be used. A familiar and straightforward
contrast is:31

[204] E ytuj cnfhbyyfz vt,tkm.
He has antique furniture [≈ the furniture he has is antique].
[205] E ytuj tcnm cnfhbyyfz vt,tkm.
He has [at least some] antique furniture.

31 Isaˇenko 1974:57.
316 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Écnm is used when the context deals with the state of the world, when the
speaker paints a picture in which the possession of some entity is in some
relation to other states of the world -- a relation of cause and effect, of principle
and illustration, or of overlapping states.

[206] <b,kbjntrfhib dcnhtnbkb vtyz c djcnjhujv. Rybub vjb e yb[ tcnm, ht,znf
xbnf/n b[.
The librarians greeted me ecstatically. They have my books, children read them.

In [206], the relation is causal: the provincial library has the books, therefore
children read them. In [207], having a notebook with a French title is a de rigueur
consequence of taking music lessons:

[207] Yj [jlbnm yf ehjrb gjkfuftncz, b e vtyz, rjytxyj, tcnm yjnyfz gfgrf, ult
gj-ahfywepcrb yfgbcfyj ¤v/pbr≥.
But it™s expected that I go to music lessons, and of course, I have a folder for sheet
music, on which is written in French, “musique.”

Thus in context, †cnm establishes the existence of something, in the face of
possible non-existence, where the existence of that entity affects other states of
the world. In contrast, †cnm is omitted if the sentence is used to characterize the
possessor rather than to establish the polarity of existence:

[208] <f,eirf rhfcfdbwf, yj cregfz. E ytt rk/xb jn rfccs.
Grandmother is a beauty, but she is stingy. She has the keys to the moneybox.
[209] E ytuj lheufz cgtwbfkmyjcnm: jy yfxbyftn ltrkfvbhjdfnm jxtym lkbyyst
cnb[b, b exbntkm ujnjd gjcnfdbnm tve k/,e/ jnvtnre, kbim ,s jy pfvjkxfk.
He has another specialty: he starts declaiming a long poem, and the teacher is
ready to give him any grade if only he will shut up.

Thus [208] describes the possessor (her possession of keys goes along with her
other character traits), while [209] explicates where the boy™s true talent lay.

5.4 Quantified (genitive) objects

5.4.1 Basics
The genitive can be used instead of the accusative for the object argument of
transitive predicates under one of the following conditions: (a) individual verbs
govern the genitive, now usually alongside the accusative; (b) the genitive can
be used in place of the accusative in a partitive, or m e t r i c , meaning; and (c)
the genitive is still frequently used in place of the accusative object of transitive
verbs that are negated. These contexts are different enough from each other to
merit separate discussion. Still, there are similarities. The genitive presents the
Predicates and arguments 317

Table 5.8 Semantic classes of predicates governing object genitive

predicates semantics

bcr’nm ˜seek, search for™, ;l’nm ˜await™, potential: contact is potential, but
nh†,jdfnm ˜demand™, (gj)ck©ifnmcz ˜heed, unrealized
listen to™, lj;l’nmcz/lj;bl’nmcz ˜wait for™,
;tk’nm ˜desire™, [jn†nm ˜want™
ljcn«xm/ljcnbu’nm ˜reach™, lj,«nmcz/lj,bd’nmcz tenuous: actual contact in the face of
˜achieve, acquire™, rfc’nmcz ˜touch on™ possible non-contact
´nmcz ˜fear™, bp,t;’nm ˜avoid™, jgfc’nmcz avoidance: possible contact is avoided
˜be wary of™, ,th†xmcz ˜be wary of ™

situation more as a state of the world than as a property of a speci¬c entity. At
the level of the argument, the genitive is used for nouns that are essentialist
rather than individuated in reference (˜this is a token of the kind of thing de¬ned
as . . .™).

5.4.2 Governed genitive
The genitive has long been used for the objects of certain verbs (Table 5.8).32
Verbs that can take the genitive at all present a scenario in which the object is
potentially affected by the subject, but the potential effect (or the potential con-
tact between the two entities) is less than complete: contact is only potential, not
actual; or the contact is attenuated because non-contact was a real possibility;
or contact is avoided.
The verbs of Table 5.8 all used to take the genitive regularly, but over the
course of the twentieth century it became increasingly possible to use the ac-
cusative. Among the common verbs, the genitive is still usual with the highly
modal nh†,jdfnm (over 90%), but now infrequent with bcr’nm (less than 30% gen-
itive), with ;l’nm ˜wait™ intermediate. The accusative has made such progress
with these verbs that RG 1980 recognized the accusative as a stylistically neu-
tral option in two contexts: with nouns referring to persons (in the singular
of Declension<II> or Declension<III> -- otherwise the animate accusative would
be invoked), as in [210], and with nouns referring to known entities, as in

[210] Z gjitk bcrfnm cdj/ vfnm<acc> .
I set off to look for my mother.
[211] Tve ye;yf jlyf rybuf, rjnjhfz e yfc tcnm. Z gjitk bcrfnm rybue<acc> .
He needed a certain book that we had. I went to look for the book.

32 Matthews 1997.
318 A Reference Grammar of Russian

In fact, the accusative is used more broadly with bcr’nm and ;l’nm. The ac-
cusative can be used for non-individuated objects if the eventual result is envi-
sioned ([212--13]):

[212] Jntw t;tlytdyj e[jlbk bcrfnm rdfhnbhe<acc> .
Every day father would go out to search for an apartment.
[213] Jyf gjckfkf ntktuhfvve, cnfkf ;lfnm jndtnyjt gbcmvj<acc> .
She sent a telegram and began to wait for the letter of reply.

The accusative is used for repeated activities, each of which is successful,

[214] Rf;lsq ltym z jnghfdkzkcz yf ks;f[ nj d jlye cnjhjye, nj d lheue/, bcrfk
ltkzyrb<acc> , ult uecnj hjckb cjcys b gb[ns, gjnjv dtk nelf ktcjhe,jd b
yfvtxfk ljhjub lkz dsdjprb ,htdty.
Every day I set out on skis in one direction or another, and located dense stands
of pine and ¬r, then I brought the lumberjacks there and marked out roads for
taking out the logs.

Or for an activity that is con¬ned to a delimited interval of time:

[215] J,scr ghjljk;fkcz lj hfccdtnf. Gjlybvfkb gjkjdbws, bcrfkb jhe;bt<acc> ,
xbnfkb gbcmvf, jgznm bcrfkb, ybxtuj yt yf[jlbkb.
The search lasted until dawn. They lifted up the ¬‚oorboards, they searched for
guns, they read letters, they searched some more, they found nothing.

The generalization is that the accusative is used when the event is bounded.
In contrast, the genitive is used when the event is not limited. In [216], the
speaker engages in the activity of waiting while, concurrently, observing another
activity; [217] reports an open-ended process.

[216] Z ;lfk yf djrpfkt gjtplf<gen> c ,bktnjv d rfhvfyt b yf,k/lfk, rfr ldf
yjcbkmobrf dskfdkbdfkb d njkgt gjljphbntkmys[ b dtkb b[ pf ne vfktymre/
I waited at the station for a train with a ticket in my pocket and observed how
two porters would pick out suspicious types from the crowd and lead them
behind that small door.
[217] Jy gjlfk fgtkkzwb/ d WRR b nthgtkbdj ;lfk htitybz<gen> cdjtq celm,s.
He had put in an appeal to the Central Committee and was waiting patiently for
the resolution of his fate.

In both [216--17], the object is de¬ned in essentialist terms: ˜that which would
be a train™, ˜that which would be the resolution of his fate™. This context -- open-
ended activity, essentialist reference of the argument -- is the last refuge of the
governed genitive.
Predicates and arguments 319

Unpaired re¬‚exive verbs (,jz
´nmcz ˜fear™, etc.) still take the genitive, but have
begun to allow the accusative in the colloquial register with objects naming
unique individuals:33

[218] Nfhfrfys yt ,jzkbcm lzl/ Dfc/<acc> .
The roaches did not fear Uncle Vasia.

5.4.3 Partitive and metric genitive
The genitive case can be used for the object in what is often termed a pa r t i t i v e
sense. The partitive sense presupposes a mass that is homogeneous (any portion
is equivalent to any other), the total quantity of which is open-ended (there is
always more where that came from). In the partitive usage, this formless mass
is given shape: as a result of a bounded event, an unspeci¬ed but delimited
quantity is created. In [219],

[219] -- Gjcnjq, cjecf<gen> djpmvb, -- crfpfk jy, elth;bdfz here Ktdbyf, rjnjhsq
jnnfkrbdfk jn ct,z cjec<acc> .
Ktdby gjrjhyj gjkj;bk ct,t cjecf<gen> , yj yt lfk tcnm Cntgfye Fhrflmbxe.
-- Hold on, take some sauce, -- he said, restraining Levin™s hand, who had been
pushing the sauce away.
Levin obediently took some sauce, but wouldn™t let Stepan Arkadich eat.

Levin responds to a request to create some delimited quantity of sauce (twice
genitive), but manipulates the whole quantity of sauce (accusative).
The possibility of using a partitive genitive depends on the noun, on the verb,
and on the context. The partitive genitive is most likely with nouns that refer to
undifferentiated masses, especially comestibles. It is less frequent, but possible,
with plural nouns ([220]).

[220] Jy regbk gfgbhjc<gen> b gjitk yfpfl r vjcnrfv.
He bought cigarettes and went back to the platform.

The partitive is most natural with those predicates that report a situation in
which the act itself creates a quantity, as happens with interpersonal, domestic
acts of transfer (purchasing, serving, or giving), consumption, or accumulation
(Table 5.9).
Using the genitive in its partitive sense depends in part on the aspectual-
modal quality of the situation. Because the quantity is created by the event, the
partitive sense is most natural in contexts in which completion of an action has
occurred or is anticipated -- a perfective imperative (recall [219]), a past perfective
([221]), or a purpose clause or in¬nitive ([222]):

33 Butorin 1966.
320 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Table 5.9 Predicates taking partitive and metric genitive

verbs of examples typical objects

t r a n s f e r : quantity de¬ned l’nm/lfd’nm ˜give™, domestic products, money
by moving some quantity reg«nm/gjreg’nm ˜buy™,
away from source location ghbck’nm/ghbcsk’nm ˜send™,
to new location ´nm/,h’nm ˜take™ [rare],
´nm/pfybv’nm ˜borrow™
c o n s u m p t i o n : quantity c(†cnm/c(tl’nm ˜eat up™, liquids, foodstuffs
de¬ned by act of ukjny©nm/ukjn’nm ˜swallow™,
consumption dsgbnm/dsgbd’nm ˜drink up™
ac c u m u l a t i o n : quantity yf,h’nm/yf,bh’nm ˜gather™, liquids; particulate mass;
de¬ned by act of yfk«nm/yfkbd’nm ˜pour™, abstracts (in idioms)
accumulation, especially ghb,’dbnm/ghb,fdk„¦nm ˜add
increase over prior amount to™, lj,’dbnm/lj,fdk„¦nm ˜add™

[221] Uhtiybwf, z lfkf<pf pst> tq cdjt gfkmnj b ltytu<gen> yf ljhjue lj Vjcrds,
relf jyf gjt[fkf [kjgjnfnm j djccnfyjdktybb.
Sinner that I am, I gave her my coat and money for the trip to Moscow, where she
was going to see about her rehabilitation.
[222] Yb jlyjuj lyz yt ghjdtk jy d ghfplyjcnb, cjdctv pf,sk vepsre, hfccskfz gj
dctv ue,thybzv gbcmvf c ghjcm,jq ghbckfnm<pf inf> ctvzy<gen> b cf;tywtd<gen> ,
tot rfvyz<gen> , tot ktce<gen2> , heufzcm c gjlhzlxbrjv.
He didn™t spend a single day in idleness, completely forgot music, sending out
letters to every province asking them to send additional seeds and seedlings,
stone, and lumber, cursing at the contractor.

The genitive is not used as partitive for imperfective actions in progress, as
in jyf rfr hfp yfkbdfkf vyt {xfq<acc> / — xfz<gen> } ˜she was just pouring out
some tea™, inasmuch as the quantity becomes de¬ned only as a result of a ¬n-
ished action.34 The partitive is not used with imperfectives reporting generalized
[223] Veptq cnfk cjplfdfnmcz ktn nhbyflwfnm yfpfl, rjulf nehbpv yfxfk lfdfnm
ltymub<acc> .
The museum was founded about thirteen years ago, when tourism began to
produce money.

The partitive genitive can be used with imperfectives that report a series of
separate events, each of which is completed; in [224], he was given a quantity of
money on each visit:

34 Russell 1986.
Predicates and arguments 321

[224] Gjtplrb эnb z jxtym k/,bk, d ujcnz[ vtyz eujofkb, f rhjvt njuj, ,f,eirf
lfdfkf<if pst> vyt ltytu<gen> , xnj,s z regbk e nhfvdfqyjq rjylernjhib
I loved those trips, as a guest I got treats, and furthermore, grandma used to give
me money so that I could buy tickets from the tram conductor.

Declension<I> has an alternate ending in the genitive singular, {-u} instead of
{-a}. This “second genitive” (gen2) is most usual in the partitive function (§5.5).
Archaically in folk texts, the partitive genitive could be used if the time was
understood as partitive -- as a delimited quantity -- even if the object itself was
a concrete object:35

[225] Lfq vyt ndjtuj yj;f!
Give me your knife [for a moment]!

Related to the partitive genitive is what might be termed the m e t r i c genitive,
the use of the genitive for the object of verbs that measure the quantity of
the affected entity against some implicit standard of suf¬ciency. The pre¬x yf-
derives verbs that do this. They normally govern the genitive ([226]), except when
the object is headed by a quanti¬er or a noun that itself is a measure ([227]):

[226] Z yfltkfk ukegjcntq<gen> .
I did a lot of stupid things.
[227] Z yfltkfk {vyjuj<acc> (— vyjub[<gen> ) ∼ rexe<acc> (— rexb<gen> )} ukegjcntq.
I did {many ∼ a pile of} dumb things.

5.4.4 Object genitive of negation
Objects of negated transitive verbs regularly appear in the genitive, although the
accusative is not infrequent.36 In memoiristic prose written by mature writers
in the 1960s through the 1990s, the genitive was used in about two-thirds to
three-quarters of all instances.
Among the various factors or contexts, one can distinguish (a) those relating to
the force of negation; (b) the temporal-aspectual-modal qualities of the predicate
in context; and (c) properties of the argument itself.

35 Jakobson 1936/1971[b]:n. 6.
36 Timberlake 1975 lists factors that favor or retard the use of the genitive of negation. Following the
statistical work of Mustajoki 1985, Ueda 1992 documents a dozen factors that have statistically
meaningful effects (individuation, aspectuality-modality, etc.). Some factors mentioned earlier in
the literature are apparently illusory: imperatives; exclamatives; word order in which the object
precedes the verb. Percentages here are taken from Ueda 1992, the conceptual framework from
Ueda 1993. Certainly the object genitive of negation must be related to the subject genitive
of negation (Babby 2001); the genitive of negation, and more broadly, the use of the genitive
with quantifying predicates applies to the aspectual argument. Though the subject and object
phenomena are related, each “rule” has its own characteristics and requires its own description.
322 A Reference Grammar of Russian

Force of negation: The genitive is used with a negated verb only if the force
of negation extends over the predicate and its object. The accusative is used if
any of the following hold. The speci¬c predicate is conjoined or contrasted with
another predicate:

[228] Cjplf/n ajhve cjwbfkbpvf, rjulf yt yfrfpsdfkb, f gjjohzkb
bybwbfnbde<acc> .
A form of socialism is being created, when initiative was not punished, but
[229] Z bcrfkf b yt yf[jlbkf tuj ¤Jgfdibt kbcnmz≥<acc> .
I looked for but did not ¬nd his “Fallen Leaves.”

Or the negation is applied to the object, which is contrasted with another object:

[230] Ytvws yt nfrbt ujhjlf<acc> ,then.
It is not such cities that the Germans capture.

The negative particle with the verb applies to some of the entities in the class
but not all. In [231], it is speci¬cally the serious decisions that were not changed,
leaving open the possibility that the less weighty decisions might be changed:

[231] Cdjb cthmtpyst htitybz<acc> jy ybrjulf yt vtyzk.
His serious decisions he never changed.

Negation is weakened in phrases such as x´nm yt ˜almost™, gjr’ yt ˜only for so
long as™, tld’ yt ˜almost™, which presuppose that the event might occur (three-
quarters accusative):

[232] D {f[fkf[ z xenm yt regbk kjlre<acc> , pflevfk d jlbyjxre pf ldjt cenjr
cgecnbnmcz gj Rth;tywe lj cfvjq Djkub.
In the village of Khakhaly, I almost bought a boat; I had thought I might take a
two-day trip by myself down the Kerzhenets to the Volga itself.

Negative questions, which open up the possibility that the positive state of affairs
holds, prefer the accusative ([233]); rhetorical questions are especially likely to
use the accusative ([234]):

[233] Ns yt pyftim эne ctvtqre<acc> ?
You don™t know that family?
[234] L;tr Gjnhjibntkm! Rnj yt gjvybn эnj cnhfiyjt bvz<acc> !
Jack the Ripper! Who does not remember that horrible name!

Thus, any semantic operation that undermines the force of negation elicits
the accusative. At the opposite extreme is emphatic negation with yb. Emphatic
negation in effect says to the addressee, even though you might think that the
polarity would be positive for at least some element in this class, in fact for
Predicates and arguments 323

every one you imagine, the polarity of the predicate is still negative. With yb,
the genitive is used almost exclusively (95%). Yb is so strong that it even imposes
the genitive on nouns referring to unique animates ([235]).

[235] Dj dct nt pbvybt lyb z yt gjvy/ yb gfgs<gen> , yb K=hs<gen> .
Throughout all those winter days I remember neither Papa nor Laura.

Predicate aspectuality-modality: The accusative tends to be used when, in con-
text, the positive version of a given situation is expected.37 In [236], the speaker
admits to the absence of a memory that she should have, given that her sister
does recall it.

[236] :fkt/, xnj yt gjvy/ egjvzyensq Vfhbyjq gjlyjc<acc> , yfvb
ghtgjlytctyysq gfgt.
I regret that I can™t recall the tray which we had presented to Papa that Marina

Counterfactual constructions undermine the force of negation by juxtaposing
two worlds in which the predicate history has the opposite polarity. The ac-
cusative is used regularly in counterfactuals (65% of the time, as opposed to 34%
among other constructions).

[237] Jy cnfk ,s pfvtxfntkmysv frnthjv, tckb ,s yt ghtlgjxtk ghjatccb/<acc>
He could have become a remarkable actor, had he not preferred the legal

Thus when the alternative, positive state of affairs is in view, the accusative
is likely to be used. In contrast, the genitive is used when alternatives are pre-
cluded. Participles presuppose the truth of the situation they report, without
opening the door to alternatives. Negated, they often use the genitive:

[238] Yt buhfz эnjq hjkb<gen> ,jktt 12 ktn, Tktyf Vbnhjafyjdyf cjukfcbkfcm
csuhfnm cgtrnfrkm ¤Djkrb b jdws≥.
Not having played the role for more than 12 years, Elena Mitrofanovna
nevertheless agreed to do the play “Wolves and Sheep.”

Aspect exercises at least a statistical in¬‚uence on the choice of case. Perfective
aspect of the verb encourages the use of the accusative (43% accusative with per-
fectives vs. 29% accusative with imperfectives). With a perfective, the accusative
focuses on the failure of the event at the past time when the event might have
been expected to occur:

37 Keil 1970.
324 A Reference Grammar of Russian

[239] Njhjgzcm, z yt cyzkf uhbv<acc> b yt gthtjltkfcm.
Because I was in a hurry, I did not remove my makeup and did not change clothes.

The genitive, when it is used with a perfective verb, focuses on the continuing
negative existence that results from a failed event.

[240] Njkmrj nen Vfif dcgjvybkf, xnj jyf yt cyzkf gkfof<gen> b ,thtnf<gen> .
It was only then that Masha recalled that she had not removed her coat and beret.

Individuating vs. existential predicates: Although the distinction between ex-
istential and individuating predicates is most evident with be and intransitive
predicates, there is a comparable distinction among transitives. The extreme
cases are the following. Bv†nm is a transitive existential, and it usually interprets
its object, often idiomatic abstract nouns like {gh’df ∼ l†kf ∼ jnyji†ybz}, as


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